There is a common misconception that baby teeth need less care because they are temporary. However, these teeth are susceptible to decay (caries) and painful toothaches, the same as an adult tooth. When infants or toddlers get cavities, the problem is called Early Childhood Caries or Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Healthy, strong teeth are important for children to be able to eat, speak, and smile normally. Primary teeth also serve as placeholders for adult teeth, so premature loss of a baby tooth can lead to future dental problems.
Causes of Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
The bacteria that causes decay is not present in newborns, but is usually passed from parents at a very early age. Simply sharing utensils, blowing on a child's food to cool it, or kissing your baby can expose him or her.
Any tooth can be affected, though the front, upper teeth are usually the first to exhibit decay in very young children. One of the most common causes is frequent and prolonged exposure to sugary drinks. This usually happens when a bottle is used as a pacifier, or the child is put to bed with a bottle.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth decay
- Try to avoid spreading bacteria. Use separate dishes and silverware for your child and yourself.
- Wipe your baby's gums with a damp, soft cloth following every feeding.
- As soon as a tooth erupts, begin brushing with a soft toothbrush designed for infants.
- Teach your baby to drink from a cup by his or her first birthday.
- Do not put sugary soda or fruit juice in the baby bottle.
- Do not give your baby a bottle when he or she is going to sleep. The bottle should be finished, and the baby's gums should be cleaned, before naptime.
- Fluoride toothpaste or supplements may be necessary. Ask your dentist for recommendations.
- Always supervise children's oral hygiene routine to ensure that they brush thoroughly and do not swallow the toothpaste.
- Follow your dentist's nutritional advice, and help your child develop healthy eating habits.
According to the ADA (American Dental Association) children should see a dentist when the first tooth appears, or by 12 months of age. Remember: Good (or bad) habits developed early can last a lifetime.